Alliance Concerned At NMD Council Glyphosate Position

Alliance say Council has done a ‘u-turn’ on its position on the use of glyphosate weed killer

Alliance Mournes Councillor Jill Truesdale has outlined disappointment at Newry Mourne and Down District Council’s decision to overturn a motion on the use of glyphosate in the district.

It’s that time of year when wasteland, verges, pathways and gardens become entangled with weeds which may need attention.

Cllr Truesdale said at the Sustainability & Environment Committee meeting held on Wednesday, 22nd May 2024, Council officers brought a report to Councillors detailing a recommendation to ‘Approve the use of herbicides containing glyphosate for controlling invasive species at Albert Basin outside of the current allocation for normal weed control and the development of an Invasive Specifies Management Plan for the Council Estate.

She said” “This recommendation was in direct opposition to a motion brought by the then Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown in 2019 for the council to cease using glyphosate and all glyphos products in the district in favour of a more environmentally-friendly approach.

“In February 2020 Council agreed ‘to undertake a 12-month review with a target to phase out completely the use of glyphosate products on Council land within 3 years or as soon as possible.’

“A Council recommendation noted that ‘Adhering to the 75% reduction in herbicides has caused significant issues with control of weeds and invasive species on sites under Council management.

The reduction of herbicide has placed an increased pressure on manual resources for eradication of weeds by strimming, hand weeding1, hoeing etc.

This impedes the ability of grounds maintenance staff from completing other duties e.g. planting for upcoming Irish Open Golf Tournament‘.”

Councillor Truesdale added: “The reduction of glyphosate was a hard-won battle for Alliance.

“Personally, it is disheartening to see the Open being used as leverage to justify increased glyphosate application.

“While it’s important for Newcastle to present well for the event, using it as an excuse to revert to harmful practices is unacceptable.

“Our efforts should focus on repairing the damage to our environment, not applying toxic chemicals to make areas look appealing temporarily.

This approach prioritises aesthetics over environmental health, a stance I believe the majority of Newcastle residents would oppose.

Tennis courts in Newcastle with a weed issue on the perimeter.

Councillor Truesdale has requested information on how many grounds maintenance staff there are and the allocation area numbers. She said, “This seems like a resource problem rather than a Hogweed problem. 

“It’s quite ironic that the Council have a social media post up as it is Invasive Species Week and it is commendable and very informative but fails to list ‘letting a derelict site decline for years until the situation is out of control’

“It begs the question, how has it been allowed to get so out of control if this was passed in 2020 and Council have been custodians of the site for decades?”

Cllr Truesdale also said: “The downside of Hogweed is the seed bank, which can contain thousands of seeds, already in the ground, no amount of chemical will get them immediately… it takes years of repeat application.

“Hogweed needs to be hand dug when the root balls start to show, probably around April time.

“PPE obviously has to be worn and again at seeding time, thorough removal of all seed heads of plants missed first time.

“The biggest cause for concern was the recommendation in the report for a Specific Controlled Management Plan across the district on invasive species.

“Officers outlined that glyphosate is only used when there are ‘significant issues’ and/or ‘invasive species’.

“However, around two weeks ago, Council owned grass parkland around the perimeter of Newcastle Tennis Courts was sprayed.

“There is no invasive species or significant issues at that spot, and the grass could easily have been lifted and the required hedging planted.

“Around the same time at Ballyhornan beach – management had committed to stop spraying near beaches as it causes erosion and damages wildlife – the area was sprayed.”